AFL Fantasy: Looking beyond Gawn & Grundy, non-premo rucks that will save you cash & score

Weeks, and in some cases months’ worth of preparation is put in by AFL Fantasy players around the country when selecting a team that they hope will lead them to the Holy Grail. One of the biggest decisions fantasy coaches need to make is what ruck strategy to go with.

Author: Stasi Dimkou @StasDimkou

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It’s easy to select a Max Gawn (AF $911k RUCK) or Brodie Grundy (AF $893k RUCK) and partner them up with a lower tier ruckman, or in some cases, each other, but avoiding both and starting your season with two of the following rucks will provide you with extra cash to spend elsewhere while you still achieve respectable ruck scores and the potential for positive price changes due to lower breakevens.

Scott Lycett (AF $718k RUCK) – Port Adelaide big man Lycett will hold the number one ruck mantle at the club for 2022 and after a career high average of 85.6 in 2021 will provide a solid score each week. Although he scored a woeful 49 in the loss to Brisbane in Round 7 and a 59 in a smashing of the Blues in Round 22, his next lowest score was 74, and with seven scores of over 90, is a good chance to beat his Round 1 breakeven score of 85. The only knock on Lycett is that he hasn’t put together a full season since joining Port Adelaide after his premiership winning year at West Coast in 2018. Lycett may be rested forward at times during the season if the Port Adelaide intraclub match is anything to go by, but should have a high time on ground % that may see his points increase if he can hit the scoreboard more often.

Nic Naitanui (AF $713k RUCK) – Champion Data’s #1 ranked player in the AFL, Naitanui has been a solid ruck option for much of his career and although he is creeping towards his 32nd birthday, should still offer coaches a solid mid to high 80s average. The spiritual leader of the West Coast midfield is by far the club’s number one ruckman and is capable of not only winning an average of over 30 hit outs a game but has been known to rove his own taps and win clearances as well. Nine of his 21 games in 2021 ended in scores over 90, with only three scores below 70 from Round 4 onwards. With West Coast expected to fall down the ladder this year, Naitanui may be forced to spend more game time on ground to halt proceedings if the opposition gets a run on. A round 1 breakeven score of 84 should be well within reach for the experienced ruckman.  

Jarrod Witts (AF $572k RUCK) – Gold Coast Suns co-captain Jarrod Witts is an intriguing and viable ruck choice given he is returning from ACL surgery with a lower price and breakeven of 68 which should make for a great investment for Fantasy coaches. In his two full games in 2021, Witts scored 83 and 110 respectively and averaged four tackles a game. According to AFL.com.au, ‘the towering ruckman completed half of the Suns’ intraclub match and came through unscathed,’ a sure sign that a Round 1 return is plausible. He averages over 30 hit outs per game and could rest forward at times to provide a tall option now that Ben King has been ruled out with an ACL tear. Although his adjusted average for 2020 was just over 77, he averaged over 92 points between 2017 and 2019 and with no major set-backs should be scoring at least in the high 80s or low 90s most games.

Toby Nankervis (AF $699k RUCK) – New Richmond co-captain Nankervis saw an improvement in his form last season to see him average 83.4 points from 16 games played. At his best, he is a proven point scorer and if he remains injury free will be a solid ruck selection who should beat his Round 1 breakeven of 83. During the Tigers’ intraclub match simulation last week, Nankervis played predominantly in the ruck while also drifting forward to kick two goals, a sign that coach Damian Hardwick may want his big man to rest forward rather than on the bench when taking a break from the ruck. Although he scored quite poorly in his first three games of 2021, averaging a measly 57.7, his average for the remainder of the season skyrocketed to 89.4, with a month long stretch of scoring over 90 between Rounds 4 and 7. With Richmond looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2021, a fit and firing Nankervis could be the player that sets not only their season alight, but your Fantasy season too.

Jonathon Ceglar (AF $641k RUCK) – This may seem out of left field, but Ceglar is the ruckman I’m predicting will be the surprise packet this season. Chris Scott actively sought Ceglar out from Hawthorn to fix Geelong’s ruck headache caused by Rhys Stanley constantly dropping-off in form during chunks of the season. Ceglar is coming off a 76.4 season 2021 average and should boost that score with Geelong being the sixth highest tackling team in the comp, potentially leading to more stoppages and greater chances for Ceglar to improve on his 20.9 hit outs per game average. This will give him a great chance to beat his Round 1 breakeven score of 76. Although he did go under the knife in the past week to fix a problem in his knee from a training mishap, he is expected to make a full recovery and be available for Round 1. If Ceglar impresses during pre-season and can cement his spot as the number one ruck at the Cats, an average in the mid-80s is well within reach.

GWS ruck Braydon Preuss (AF $367k) has attracted 17% ownership but is no lock to be the Giants number one ruckman, while plenty of Fantasy coaches have Sam Hayes (AF $190k RUCK) and Charlie Comben (AF $190k F/R) in their ranks at R3, hoping for a game and price rise.

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